The Martian – Book Review
Astronaut and botanist Mark Watney is left alone and stranded on Mars after a storm hits during a research mission resulting in an emergency evacuation of his team and his presumed death. Now Watney must utilise all of his scientific knowledge and astronaut training to stay alive and try to contact Earth.
Andy Weir’s publication of The Martian is an uplifting story. After being rejected by numerous publishers, Weir released the The Martian on his blog, one chapter at a time. He eventually gathered a readership who requested he self-publish the novel on Amazon Kindle, which Weir did, listing the novel for it’s lowest possible sale price of 99 cents. The Amazon Kindle edition quickly rose to the top of the best selling science fiction novels, with 35,000 copies sold in three months. Shortly thereafter a publisher offered to re-release the book in a hard cover edition. Now it has been adapted into a blockbuster film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon.
I’m glad that Weir has found success with the Martian, because it is a book that deserves to be read, if only for the pure love of science that Weir, the son of a particle physicist, has injected into the novel.
The Martian is basically erotic fiction for science geeks. Apparently (more or less) scientifically accurate, Watney’s fight for survival via the skills of science, botany and mathematics is presented to the reader in a manner that is understandable and above all – entertaining. Even if your interest in science if only fleeting, Weir’s calculated and analytical tale of the requirements for a man to survive on Mars should leave you enthralled.
The narrative of the Martian is largely told through personal audio-logs and is presented in a veil of Watney’s trademark sarcasm and nonchalance humor… and herein lies the novel’s biggest problem. Of course humor is subjective any many will find Watney’s daily journals highly chucklesome… but I didn’t. The continued response to every life threatening event as “you’ll notice I am again not dead today…yay!” grows tiresome very quickly, his ramblings about ‘space pirates’ and ‘pirate ninjas’ come across as childish and his overall personality I found to be quite annoying. It is explained that one of the reasons Watney was chosen for the Mars mission was because of his personality and humor. All I know is that if I had to share a cramped spaceship with this guy, I would push him out an airlock.
Ok, perhaps the humor isn’t that bad. While I didn’t find it particularly funny, it does serve to soften the hard-sci-fi that would otherwise be exhausting reading. If you’re picking this book up, just be prepared for some very heavy handed dialogue, especially between the NASA executives. It probably didn’t help that I listened to the audiobook version and I couldn’t read the jokes and dialogue in my own head. So it may be best to pick up a written version of the Martian, in which case it would also be easier to skip back and familiarise yourself with any scientific concepts or terms that were forgotten.
My criticisms aside, I do recommend you take a risk on the humor and give the Martian a shot, particularly if you’re a science or space travel fan, because that is the true appeal of this book – along with its unique premise.
Science has not been this entertaining since I accidentally started a fire with a bunsen burner in high school.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
You can pick up a copy of the Martian here.
Or check out the film version here.